2019 Global Healthcare PR Agencies of the Year
The 2019 Global PR Agencies of the Year are the result of an exhaustive research process involving more than 450 submissions and face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across North America, EMEA, Asia-Pacific and LatAm.
Winner: Evoke Kyne (Huntsworth Plc)
In May 2019, through an acquisition by Huntsworth Plc, Kyne became part of Evoke Group, joining forces with its existing PR company, Evoke PR & Influence, to become Evoke Kyne, now one of the world’s largest healthcare communications agencies with offices in New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Dublin and London. Evoke Kyne was founded ten years ago by David Kyne in Dublin on the belief that communication is a powerful health intervention that can save lives. The agency serves public and private sector clients, bringing together stakeholders to address some of the world’s most pressing public health challenges, from increasing flu vaccinations to eradicating Guinea worm disease. Evoke Kyne has offices in New York and Los Angeles, and recently opened an office in London led by new MD Joanne Wunder, who is also head of Europe and also oversees the Dublin HQ, serving Evoke Kyne’s European-based clients.
The firm also has senior consultants in Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, South Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe, with a partner network that extends its capabilities to Latin America. The team comes from diverse backgrounds, from many different countries and speaking multiple languages, and has deep experience working within the markets it serves, ensuring its work is targeted, locally-sensitive, relevant and effective.
On the heels of a year of record growth in 2017, the firm continued to grow in high-single figures in 2018 to fee income in excess of $10m, while also expanding its network and enriching its offering, including developing its digital and media expertise in response to a shift in the way stakeholders seek and digest health information. Senior appointments in this area included Julie O’Donnell as global head of digital – bringing more than a decade of experience in health-focused digital and marketing strategy, including senior roles with Publicis D and Lundbeck – and Alexander Petti as VP, media strategist.
Much of Evoke Kyne’s client list and work is confidential, but good examples of its work include partnering with social media influencers to raise awareness of lung cancer’s impact on women for the Lung Cancer Research Foundation and supporting patient advocacy initiatives across several Novartis therapeutic areas.
New assignments in 2018 included developing advocacy programs for Alnylam to strengthen patient communities in rare diseases, and strategic communications to empower the Parkinson’s disease community.
The work may be serious, but the team culture isn’t: energy is high, laughter is frequent and egos are checked at the door. The agency has a wide range of initiatives to support its 48 employees, including professional development, exchange and volunteering opportunities, mentorship, physical and mental programmes and an annual company-wide offsite. — MPS
GCI Health (Global, WPP)
At a time when the healthcare sector is going through unprecedented transformation—mergers and acquisitions, vertical integration, new CEOs — the gulf between patients and physicians and the industry that serves them has never been wider. For companies like GCI Health, which serves the entire range of healthcare companies, from pharma to biotech to medical tech to health IT to the payer/provider sector, that means facing new challenges and more complex assignments while maintaining a laser-like focus on the core values that define and differentiate them.
That was why GCI made the decision three years ago to talk about putting patients at the center, and why it decided last year to talk about “people at the center,” reflecting a more holistic view of those individuals but also acknowledging the need to reach out to physicians, pharmacists and other influencers. In the meantime, the firm is enjoying record growth. Fees were up by a staggering 40% last year, with 40 new accounts including BMS, Pfizer, Merck, Abbott, Seattle Genetics, Alexion, Spark Therapeutics and the Educational Commission For Foreign Medical Graduates (while 95% of existing clients were retained). GCI now has fees of around $60 million in the US (with another $5 million or so overseas).
In the UK, GCI Health has established itself—just five years after opening its London office—as a significant player. After impressive 36% growth in 2018, the firm now has a team of 35 in London, led by managing directors Kath Kerry and Rikki Jones, supported by senior director Hannah Morris, who leads European client development. Long-term clients include Acelity, Bayer, Biogen, ElectroCore, Gilead, Qiagen, Johnson & Johnson, Merck KGaA and MSD, while there was new business in 2018 from Astellas. In Asia, the firm is a start-up, having opened its doors in Singapore at the start of 2019, but it has already grown from one to eight employees and exceeded its target revenue for the whole year. It’s been such a strong start that the agency will be opening two more offices in the region soon, an objective that was originally planned for 2020. — PH
SPAG Asia (Asia-Pacific, Independent)
In the six years since its launch, SPAG has already established itself as an industry game changer in the Asia-Pacific region — a hybrid firm with strong healthcare and public affairs capabilities that grew 35% in 2018 to US$5.9m, including $4m from just 50 people in India, a market not known for its revenue per capita. In addition to three offices in India, SPAG’s Singapore operation now clocks in at a $2m, while the firm has also added a Malaysia office as it eyes increasing regional mandates and diversification into healthcare technology, with further expansion expected across Southeast Asia.
A good example of SPAG’s increasing ability to handle regional work comes from its Novartis relationship, which includes the external narrative business for Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa. There was also new business from Lupin, Intuitive, Women Delivers, Lancet, GHAI, Meril, Merck and Depuy, joining a client roster that features AdvaMed, PhRMA, GIPC, Novartis, Abbott, Sanofi Genzyme, Vital Strategies, Girl Effect, BD, Stryker, Medtronic and J&J.
In 2017, SPAG laid the groundwork for continued success by developing a four-year growth plan that includes the creation of a holding company (Strategic Partners Group) for its brands; rolling out new offerings such as a food & nutrition practice; and taking its business to Europe through partnerships with life science companies targeting the Asia-Pacific region. All of which are in sync with SPAG’s overarching strategy of growing its business through expanding its capabilities rather than its client roster; SPAG has doubled, and even tripled, revenue from existing clients by expanding its breadth of services. The firm is banking on big payoffs, with projections calling for its fee income to rise from its current to $12-15m within four years.
And the firm’s campaign work reflects the sophistication of its offering, including SABRE nominated efforts for Novartis, Sanofi Genzyme and GIPC. — AS
Weber Shandwick (Global, Interpublic Group)
In addition to operating a formidable healthcare practice under its own brand name, Weber Shandwick has invested in several sub-brands that specialize in health, and two of them were among the five finalists for our North American Healthcare Agency of the Year award—including winner DNA Communications, which has been steeped in some of the biggest issues facing stakeholders from pharmaceutical companies, policy makers and payers to healthcare providers, patients and advocacy organizations. Clients work in areas that range from high-science oncology to over-the-counter cold and flu medications, all of which are handled with DNA’s hallmark patient-centric and science-first approach. Over the last 12 months, DNA has spearheaded campaigns focused on leading health issues like addiction, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, macular degeneration, immunotherapy in oncology, evolving HIV treatment, multiple sclerosis and diabetes in the Hispanic community.
ReviveHealth, acquired in 2016, has continued on the growth trajectory that made it so attractive in the first place. An impressive rise in revenue in 2019 was driven by the firm’s expertise in crisis communications and issues management, as its roster grew to include VCU Health, Atlantic Health, Geisinger Health, Kaiser Permanente, Connecticut Children’s, New York-Presbyterian, Teladoc Health and Halo Communications.
Weber Shandwick was also a finalist in the Asian healthcare category, with health revenues accounting for around 10% of regional revenue after 23% growth in 2018. Key clients include Abbott, MSD, Pfizer, Roche and Sanofi, while the firm also benefited from the global Novartis consolidation and GSK expansion, along with new business from Gilead Hepatitis and ZO Skin Health on a regional level. In Korea, the merger with McCann Health has turned Weber Shandwick into one of the market’s largest healthcare marketing firms, while there are also sizeable capabilities in Hong Kong (including a new medical education offering), China (where it integrates the C3 platform to drive content to commerce for healthcare brands) and Australia. — PH